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Transmission Computer: Controllers - In Control

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With stand-alone control of electronically controlled overdrive automatics, it's easier to dial in accurate upshifts, and you can just stab the throttle, steer it, and the trans will do the rest. The performance world is changing. While power remains almighty, the new world is all about how to get that power to the tires. The best way to control an automatic transmission is to use one of the new, electronically controlled overdrive gearboxes (Transmission Computer). But swapping one of these newer transmission computer e-trannies into an older muscle car requires some type of aftermarket, stand-alone transmission controller. Names like EZ TCU and Simple Shift made us wonder if these controllers could live up to their hype. The only way to know for sure was to put them to the test.

We gathered five different transmission computer controllers and subjected them to a real-world flogging on a big-block street car to see if each could do the job. All the controllers perform the same basic functions, allowing you to custom-tailor shift points both at part- and wide-open throttle, as well as shift firmness at various throttle openings. How specifically each box accomplishes these tasks and how easy it is to effect changes are the key questions. Perhaps the most important differentiation for the average enthusiast is whether the box requires a laptop computer or relies on a hand-held device with analog controls.

Transmission Computer: Our Test Mule

The best way to test these controllers was to bolt them all in the same car and evaluate their performance. Car Craft family member Ed Taylor recently purchased a '70 Nova that had been languishing in front of Ken Duttweiler's shop for several years. We power-washed the grease left behind by the previous turbo Buick V6 and bolted in a Holley, carbureted, 496ci big-block Chevy. You might recall the "Rat" as the dyno mule we whipped mercilessly for a big-block oval-port-head test in our Mar. '08 issue ("Big-Block Cylinder Head Test," pg.30). Behind our 590hp, 620-lb-ft rodent, we bolted a used 4L80E that Ed Taylor scored from Craigslist. We stuffed the 4L80E into the car using a TCI flexplate and a 10-inch lockup Street Fighter torque converter along with a very nice custom aluminum crossmember from American Powertrain and a Dynatech aluminum driveshaft, and the big pieces were in place. Of course, it took more than just a motor and trans to turn this orphan into a road warrior

Other goodies we wanted for the buildup included a new pair of bucket seats from Scat to replace the aged originals and a new set of Toyo Proxes R888 sticky 17-inch tires obtained through our pals at TreadSource and mounted on lightweight RT-S Weld wheels. With the big-block squeezed in, there was no room for a mechanical fan, so we opted for a pair of electric fans from Maradyne mounted to a killer Afco aluminum radiator. That combination worked to prevent the engine temp from exceeding 195 degrees F. We also added a set of Wilwood front disc brakes because the Rat promised enough power to demand equal stopping performance. For the intake, we needed a 950hp Holley to feed the Rat, and for the exhaust side a pair of Hedman 2-inch headers snaked around the stock manual steering box. We completed the exhaust with a great-sounding, 2.5-inch cross-pipe system from MagnaFlow installed by our pal Kevin McMillan. After two months of busted- knuckle work, the car was up and running, and we were ready for street testing.

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1 comments
chrisBAMFsilverado
chrisBAMFsilverado

I have a 93 chevy c1500 with a carbed 355 and 4L60E. The trans has a 2400 stall and custom shift kit, and I recently installed the EZ-TCU on it. I ran the stock TBI engine with the rebuilt trans for a while and it worked great with the stock computer control, but as soon as I installed the TCI unit, the 2-3 shift hesitates under 3/4 to full throttle. I have adjusted the shift firmness/agressiveness, high and low rpm shift points, max shift rpm (set at 5000 for allowance to go up to 5800 like advised in the article, and any other adjustment I can find. Regardless of how I adjust the settings, it always hesitates going into 3rd and allows the truck to wind up to about 6200. I have replaced the control box with a new unit through TCI, and I still have the same problem. Can you guys at CC recommend a course of action for me?

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